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Flawless Racing Instincts Are Key To Jeptoo's Second Boston Victory


The days leading up to Patriots' Day featured the usual speculation about the elite performers and American chances for victory. While the women's field lacked that stand-out sub-2:20 performer, the race held promise for a competitive battle as 10 women boasted PR's under 2:26, including three Ethiopians under 2:22. U.S. Olympians Shalane Flanagan (2:25:38) and Kara Goucher (2:24:52) led a group of ambitious Americans in a quest to break the stranglehold that non-American runners have had on this race. While runner-up Desiree Davila just missed earning a U.S. win in 2011 by a mere 2 seconds, the fact remains that no American woman has broken the Boston tape since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach captured the laurel wreath way back in 1985. Might this be the year that an American woman would finally break the foreign juggernaut?

As the women's start quickly indicated, today would be a day of tactical racing. A four women lead pack featuring Germany's Sabrina Mackenhaupt, Portugal's Ana Dulce Felix and Japan's Yuka Yano forced a slight separation from the pack and passed 5 kilometers in 18:22. Flanagan and Goucher - the two American hopefuls - were tucked into the chase pack 17 seconds back.

Shortly after 10K - passed in 35:52 - Kenya's Diana Sigei and Portugal's Yolanda Callabero launched off after the 4 leaders. As the tactical racing continued, it suggested that Flanagan - who had posted the world leading 10,000 meter time at Stanford just weeks ago - might be the race day beneficiary. Speeding past Lake Cochituate - Tarzan Brown's favorite swimming hole - the lead women hit 9 miles in 51:18, right on 2:29 pace. Entering Natick, Caballero - a sturdy over-striding power runner - caught and passed the lead foursome and began to build an advantage. Almost in unison, Flanagan and then Goucher peeled off and discarded their racing sleeves. Was the real racing about to begin?

It was for Caballero. By Wellesley's half way point, the young Columbian runner had pushed out her advantage over the field to 32 seconds. It was an impressive long push, to be sure.. But her over-striding and animated arm pumping gave concern that her 200 meter lead just couldn't be held for long.

It couldn't. Culminating a drive she initiated during the 14th mile, Dulce Felix of Portugal caught Caballero at Lower Newton Falls and pulled away as the women headed into the Newton hills. But where was the chase pack loaded with world-class Africans and the American hopefuls?

By the dramatic turn at the Newton Fire Station, Dulce Felix had forged a 23 second lead over a sagging Cabellero and was up perhaps 45 seconds on the still-dawdling chase pack. With relentless leg turn-over, the Portuguese marathoner was all in - going for the win. Halfway through the Newton Hills, Dulce Felix charged past the 19 mile mark in 1:46:52 opening up an eye-opening gap of 1:15 over the chase pack. No chinks in her armor were visible.

Dulce Felix kept the pressure on as she crested Heartbreak Hill, passed Bill Squires' Cemetery Of Broken Dreams, and powered down through Cleveland Circle. And it was there the chase pack came alive. Still down by a minute, a tight group comprised of Rita Jeptoo, Meseret Hailu, Sharon Chirop, and Flanagan finally launched off in pursuit.

The gap was shrinking. Dulce Felix was giving no quarter, but the Jeptoo-led charge was closing in. Flanagan began to crack as the chase pack bore down. The chasing quartet finally caught the Portuguese runner as they headed toward Kenmore Square. Shortly before the 40 kilo mark, Jeptoo threw in one more surge that did the trick - dropping Hailu and a struggling Chirop.

Over the final mile, Jeptoo had the race in her grasp and was able to savor her accomplishment - crossing the finish line in 2:26:25. Unlike the past 5 years - when the women's races were all decided by 3 seconds or less - Jeptoo was able to have a coronation-like run down Boylston. For the 32 year old Jeptoo, it was her second Patriots' Day victory - a bookend win to add to her 2006 triumph.



Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, 2013 B.A.A. Boston Marathon, 

photo by PhotoRun.net


Never backing off, Flanagan battled to the end. Digging deep, the New England native worked hard from Columbus Circle to the Boylston finish line. "My legs felt like Jello on the flat.," explained Flanagan on the run-in from Cleveland Circle. "I kept telling myself 'Keep your head down, keep working hard, keep putting one foot in front of the other.' I never gave up. I hadn't settled for fourth. I was working hard." And in expressing her appreciation for the broad-based support she had received from her family and her New England fan base, an emotional Flanagan added, "I was hoping that the laurel wreath would be the way to thank them. But it was not to be today."

Goucher - not in the mix over the final miles - finished 6th in 2:28:11. "It became a tactical chess match," reflected Flanagan's friend and training partner. "For me, that bought me some time so I could survive a little bit longer." Showing some disappointment and a little emotion, she added, "With four miles to go, I couldn't believe my good fortune. But then they took off and that was that."

Not lost on those who love the sport, a truly amazing performance by Joan Benoit Samuelson was a special highlight cap to a glorious Patriots' Day. To honor and celebrate the 30th anniversary of her breakthrough world record run in the 1983 Boston Marathon, Benoit Samuelson had quietly targeted a goal finish time within 30 minutes of her '83 world record performance of 2:22:43. Starting with the faster men, the two-time Boston champion turned in a stunning performance - achieving her goal and finishing strong in 2:50:22. At the post-race press conference, the '84 Olympic marathon champion offered , "I like to have goals and to tell a story with my marathons." Quietly pleased with her race, Benoit Samuelson added, "My fastest training run was 7:08 pace." When the press advised her that her mark set a new age-group world record, the always-understated former champion added, "That's nice to know..."


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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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